For sports fans, rivalries are often the highlight of any season. These intense battles between teams captivate audiences, elicit passionate emotions, and create memorable moments that are etched in history. In the world of hockey, there is no shortage of iconic rivalries, and one of the most thrilling and enduring has been between the Air Force hockey team and their opponents.
The Air Force Academy is known for producing some of the country’s most elite airpower leaders, but their ice hockey program also has a distinguished history. Over the years, the Falcons have faced off against numerous rivals, creating an impressive legacy on the ice. As we take a trip down memory lane, let’s revisit some of the most important and memorable matchups in the Air Force’s hockey history.
The Rivalry with Army West Point
It’s impossible to discuss the Air Force‘s hockey rivalries without mentioning their most bitter and longstanding rival, Army West Point. The rivalry between the two academies stretches back to 1960, when the first-ever hockey game was played between the two military schools. Since then, the Falcons and Black Knights have had a heated rivalry on the ice, both in the regular season and at the annual Army-Navy game.
The two teams have met over 80 times, with the Falcons leading the all-time series with 43 wins. However, the Army has had its moments of glory, including a memorable upset victory in the 2008 Atlantic Hockey Championship game. The intensity of this rivalry has only grown stronger over the years, and every game between the two teams is a must-watch event for any hockey fan.
Air Force vs. Colorado College
As two of the top college hockey programs in Colorado, Air Force and Colorado College have engaged in many memorable battles on the ice. The rivalry between these two teams began in 1969 and continues to this day. With close geographical proximity and high-level competition, sparks fly whenever the Falcons and Tigers meet.
Some of the key moments in this rivalry include Air Force’s first victory over Colorado College in 1997, a 4-3 win that marked the first time a Division I service academy team had beaten a ranked Division I opponent. More recently, the two teams faced off in the 2018 Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals, with Air Force coming out on top in a thrilling double-overtime win. This rivalry remains one of the most intense and exciting matchups for both teams.
The Showdown with Denver
Founded in 2006, the Highway 25 Showdown between the Air Force and the University of Denver has quickly become one of the most highly anticipated matchups for fans of both programs. This non-conference rivalry is fueled by the proximity of the two teams, who are just over an hour’s drive from each other.
The first-ever meeting between the Falcons and Pioneers took place in 2009, and since then, they have met over a dozen times, with Denver holding a slight edge in the overall series. However, the Air Force has pulled off some notable wins against their in-state rivals, including a thrilling overtime victory in 2015. With both teams consistently ranked among the top 10 in the country, this rivalry is sure to produce many more unforgettable moments in the years to come.
Air Force vs. Notre Dame
While the Air Force’s rivalry with Army West Point is the most notable among the service academies, their matchups with Notre Dame have produced some of the most historic events in the Falcons’ hockey history. The two teams first met in 2007, and since then, they have faced off in numerous high-stakes games, including two NCAA tournament games.
In 2008, the Air Force pulled off a stunning upset over the top-seeded Fighting Irish to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. They met again in 2017, with Notre Dame edging out the Falcons in a nail-biting game that ended in overtime. This rivalry between two prestigious institutions has brought some of the most unforgettable moments in the Air Force’s hockey history.
For Air Force hockey fans, these matchups are more than just games. They represent the longstanding tradition of excellence and the fierce spirit of competition ingrained in the military culture. Whether it’s a showdown against a service academy rival or a matchup with a top-ranked team, the Falcons’ hockey team has a rich history of battling fiercely on the ice and earning the respect of their opponents.
As we eagerly await the start of the next season, let’s remember and appreciate the great moments these rivalries have produced and look forward to the exciting matchups that lie ahead. Who knows what the future holds for the Air Force hockey team? But one thing is for sure: they will continue to create thrilling and enduring rivalries that will be talked about for years to come.